The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Life!

April 10, 2013

Cuckoo for Cocoa

Chef creates focal point for Lewisburg's 7th annual Chocolate Festival

Amy Mills is up to her elbows … in chocolate. For her third year participating, the Executive Pastry Chef of The Greenbrier Sporting Club is once again providing the piece de resistance of the Lewisburg Chocolate Festival — a spectacular chocolate sculpture for display at Harmony Ridge Gallery.

“This year, we’re getting all dressed up,” said the dessert expert, meaning dressed up two ways, with the culinary crew donning custom Paint the Town Chocolate shirts and in putting the finishing touches on the white chocolate dress form she, pastry chef Maria England and the team will fashion from 70 pounds of chocolate.

Amy’s Fashion Dream sculpture, conceptualized on paper from an idea submitted by Harmony Ridge Gallery owner Aaron Maxwell, begins with a white chocolate dress form, decorated with bright pink, red, blue and green spring flowers. Chef Amy pairs the form with the perfect chocolate accessories — high-heeled shoes, sandals, purses and a belt.

In keeping with the wearable art Harmony Ridge Gallery boasts as part of its American artisan inventory, Amy is also creating a line of chocolate jewelry including rings, necklaces and earrings to finish the edible vignette. Every element is made of white, milk & dark chocolate, modeling chocolate and chocolate fondant. Embellishments abound on the intricate piece, including edible rhinestones and sugar flowers.

Like a food television challenge minus the atomic clock, time constraints are only as rigorous as they can be for contributors who aren’t quitting their day jobs. Still, preparing for the wildly popular chocolate festival and each location’s part to play in producing and doling out in excess of 30,000 tastings has proven daunting.

In addition to the sculpture, Chef Amy and her crew will assemble 2,000 chocolate delicacies for sampling at Harmony Ridge, divided between two inspirations: Belgian Chocolate Tarte with Blood Orange Caramel & Chocolate Ganache and Milk Chocolate covered Cheesecake Bites Dipped in Toasted Oreo Crumbs.

Team Greenbrier Sporting Club has put much thought into preparing their feast for the eyes, evidenced by hand-drawn blueprints and Internet printouts scattered inside a kitchen workstation. The dress form represents the ultimate challenge in carefully designed detail. Once completed, Chef Amy estimates the sculpture will have taken one week of on-and-off production to complete.

Delivery from the Greenbrier Sporting Club to Harmony Ridge Gallery before Saturday’s festival will require one person to hold the sculpture the entire way over, admits Amy. For this dress form, there is no dress rehearsal. “You only get one chance with this. If it messes up, we can’t do it again.”

Preoccupied with making others’ chocolate dreams come true, Chef Amy admits she  has managed to miss all previous years’ festivities outside passing around her own confections. This time, should the dress form, accessories and samples carry off without a hitch, she may try to escape and enjoy herself, getting lost among the expected record crowd.

“I am going to try and sample what everyone else has to offer. I do like chocolate,” she admits, after all.

The sculpture will be on display Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside Harmony Ridge Gallery during the festival.

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